The Journey | Experimental Interaction

25 August 1982

“Take a deep breath, calm down and tell me when you’re ready dear…” Detective Rowry said as his hands instinctively reached out to comfort Melissa. “Who are you, where are you from and why did you want to speak with me?”


“I-I’m Melissa Portwood, I’m 12 years old, I live in the private sector of the orphanage, and I… I think I witnessed the murder of Frankie Pilton.”


“Can someone get me this young girl’s records?” Detective Rowry signalled to his subordinates. “Okay, I’m all ears, what happened?”


“It started with a d-dream…”



24 August 1982

Melissa woke up frustrated as she fumbled around for a glass of water. “Not again, that damn door, why won’t it ever barge?”


Her steely eyes from her chubby reflection in the mirror was all it took to convince her that she needed to get to the bottom of this mystery. She knew better than to suppress the inner Sherlock within herself. It had been two weeks since the dreams started and the scenes within them felt all too familiar.


Melissa tiptoed out of her room, which proved to be difficult with her large flat feet, but determined, she very quietly made her way down the hallway in case not to wake anyone else up. “So the dream starts here,” she muttered under her panted breath. “at the front door of the orphanage. It passes the office, then the interview room and up the carpeted stairs that lead to my favourite place of all, the DINING ROOM!” Melissa leant back smiling with contentment at the thought of breakfast. “FOCUS MEL, FOCUS, now is not the time to think of food. I have to solve this mystery before the other orphans get in my way!”


Melissa retraced the steps from her dream and as she turned the final corner, strangely enough, came face to face with the door that precluded the end of her dreams. She was fully expecting her dream to stay a dream, but, it was real, and it stood right there. Finally, after a moment of silence to accept the eerie coincidence, she proceeded to inspect the door.

“Hmph, locked, just as expected.” As she nudged the door in an attempt to open it. Then something caught her eye, a metallic silver shine that glistened slightly in the rising sun. “THE KEY! Hanging right here? That’s odd, wonder why I never noticed before? But, I guess that’s why they call me Melissa Holmes, I’m just that good.”


She inserted the key jittering with excitement, she gave it a twist, “ker-lunk” went the door bolt. This was it. What secrets laid beyond?

8 thoughts on “The Journey | Experimental Interaction”

  1. She held her breath in anticipation and pushed the door open.


    It was … just a storeroom. Just a pile of boxes and toys covered in dirt, that seemed to not have seen light in a long time.


    Huh, she thought, trying hard to push down that feeling of disappointment. She was expecting more.


    Just then, a gleam of light shone upon one of the battered-looking boxes. Against her better judgement, Melissa slowly trudged towards the light, not being able to take her eyes off it.


    She opened the lid of the box and looked in. It was too dark for anything to be seen, so she placed her hand in, feeling for something.


    Her heart stopped as she felt something grab her arm. Before she could scream, she felt a strong pull on her arm as she stumbled in and fell through the box.



    Melissa was in a lot of pain as she tried to open her eyes and blinked a few times before adjusting to her surroundings. Everything around her was … normal. She was back outside her favourite bakery in town, The Rustic Bread, and just a few feet awayshe spotted Mrs Plywood, only she looked a lot younger than Melissa remembered her to be.


    “Hey Mrs Plywood!” Melissa waved excitedly. The older woman frowned, looking confused at her.


    “I’m sorry, my dear. Do I know you?”


    Melissa was surprised. “Why Mrs Plywood, of course you do, I play with little Eric in your backyard every Sunday. Is this some kind of joke?”

    Mrs Plywood’s frown deepened. “Well, I don’t know what you are talking about. I am not married, much less with kids. Well, I am off in a rush to see my good friend , Frankie, so good day to you, young one.” She promptly marched off.


    Now Melissa was feeling even more confused. How did Mrs Plywood not recognise her when she so often was taking care of Eric?


    A gust of wind blew at her and newspapers that were thrown on the street swept across the floor to her feet. Melissa bent down to pick it up but froze in horror as she read the front title. “1976 ELECTIONS A BIG TURNING POINT FOR OUR LITTLE CITY”


    That can’t be right. The year was 1982, the paper must have made a mistake. She stared at the date on the paper: 14th November 1976. No, no, no, it couldn’t be.


    Did she just travel back in time?

  2. Melissa fumbled with the newspaper, twisting and flipping it around and around with childish hopes that it would somehow magically correct itself.

    Nothing changed.

    Annoyed, Melissa scratched her nose and frowned. This was weird, did she really travel back in time? It took a minute for reality to sink in, and for the initial fright to wear off. But after composing her tiny self the best way she could. Melissa’s eyes slowly lit up in excitement.

    To Melissa, she was standing at the doorsteps of an adventure of a lifetime, one she had only dreamt and read about in her beloved storybooks.

    Melissa quickly decided that she would take on the role of a detective and solve this grand mystery. Putting on her best detective impersonation, she declared the investigation open and set out to find her clues.

    “We are right outside The Rustic Bread, so the next location I should visit should be… Aha! The Old Mill by the lake!” Melissa exclaimed.

    The Old Mill used to be her favourite spot to visit when she was younger, and it just so happened that it was the closest vicinity nearby. In Melissa’s mind, she was the main character of her story, and following places of attraction to her was the most logical step to take. Having set her destination, Melissa dusted the dirt off her knees and set forth.

    The short walk to The Old Mill was mostly uneventful, but eventually, Melissa reached her destination.

    Standing by the lakeside overlooking the Old Mill, Melissa took her time to fully embrace the sights and sounds she once held so dearly to her. Melissa loved nature, and the lake used to be her most frequent escape before she was sent to the Orphanage. She would spend hours on end here, just admiring the Old Mill from across the lake and listening to the wonderful sounds of nature. It gave her a sense of calmness and freedom, the freedom she had to forgo when she entered the Orphanage at the age of seven.

    Having rested and rejuvenated for a moment, Melissa decided to find a path over to examine the mill, something she had never done before. Right when she was about to leave, however, she caught the sight of an all too familiar looking tree, an old maple tree right smack in the middle of the forest. On the side of the tree, she saw the familiar etchings of her name, freshly carved out just like she had years ago. Curiously enough, a few other unfamiliar etches caught her attention and Melissa squirmed her eyes to take a closer look…


    “Abby Plywood and Frankie Pilton were here.” It read.

  3. A heart surrounded that particular carving. 

    “Hm, this was not here before.” Melissa wondered. 

    Melissa circles around the tree, surveying for other carvings that she could have missed. Being too caught up on the tree, she almost tripped on what felt like a twig. The reflection of the object shone directly at Melissa’s eyes, blinding her for a split second. She attempts to pick it up. It was a cylindrical glass piece buried in the depth of the soil. She pulled it up with all her might but her small hands kept slipping off the item. 

    “A detective’s got to do her job!” Melissa exclaimed. 

    She heaved a sigh out loud and bent over. Melissa starts digging the ground with her slender hands. Occasionally, her curly black hair would get in the way and stick to her sweaty face. Melissa would vigorously rub the dirt all off her nose. 

    The contents of the glass bottle revealed, what seemed to be a rolled up piece of paper. With her last bit of energy, she attempts to pull out the glass bottle again and hastily fell back on the ground, accidentally dropping the bottle. 

    (sound of glass breaking)

    Slumped on the ground, she hurriedly reaches for the piece of paper between the broken glasses. Melissa inadvertently cut herself while reaching for the paper in a haste. The deep cut caused her blood to flow profusely like a lazy river. She quickly kept the piece of paper in her pocket and pressed snugly against her opened wound. She recalled what her social worker taught during First Aid, to put pressure on wounds in order to stop it from bleeding. But there was so much blood. 

    Just then, a pair of shiny, black dress shoes appear in front of her. A man in his late 20s with dark eyes and an almost perfectly symmetrical face was staring right at her. He offered his hand out to help Melissa up. He had tousled dark brown hair, thick and lustrous. His face was the kind that would stop you in your tracks. 

    Melissa froze for awhile, amazed at how someone could look so.. cool. He pulled Melissa up and in that moment, she noticed a deep-sabred cut across his palm. She stared at his scar for a long time before he broke the ice with his deep voice.

    “I fought a Sasquatch recently.” Melissa broke out from her frozen state and gave a slight chuckle. 

    Why does he look and sound strangely familiar?

  4. “Let’s get that thing patched up before the riots shut down the streets shall we?” 

    “Uhmmm… can I get your name… Mr…?”

    “My my, where are my manners! I’m Mr Rowry, but everyone in town calls me Detective Rowry, pleased to meet you…?” 

    AHHH A FELLOW DETECTIVE! Instinctively, her eyes fell onto the pocket concealing her latest clue. Friend or foe, scar or no scar, no way was he laying hands on it! This was her case, and she was fully capable of solving it on her own. 

    “Melissa, aspiring detective Melissa Portwood at your service, nice to meet you too. Sooo detective, this riot you talk about? What is it?” Melissa questioned inquisitively, eyebrows furrowed with suspicion. The word ‘riot’ wasn’t exactly a familiar word to her, but a detective had to know everything or at least pretend to understand even when they didn’t.

    Detective Rowry chuckled, careful not to burst her roleplaying fantasy, he replied, “The town’s been rioting for days because of the elections. Tell you what, how bout we head back to my patrol station, and I can fill you in on the details?” 

    “Okay!!! I mean… sure let’s go.” Melissa said in a thicker than usual tone, trying hard to mask her excitement. It was too good an offer to pass on; visiting a real station, finding more clues and more importantly, she could assist a fellow detective in need! Furthermore, the riots did sound like a severe case which could use some help.




    Police Patrol Station 

    “So in a shell of nut, everyone doesn’t like the leader of the red group, Mr Frankie Pilton?”

    “The proper phrase is ‘in a nutshell’ my dear, not in a shell of nut. Haha, but you catch on quick! I personally didn’t get politics until I was twice your age!” Detective Rowry replied with a warm, reassuring smile as he applied a bandage to her hand. “Now be careful, we don’t want you to end up with scarred hands like mine now do we?”

    Melissa nodded as she smiled sheepishly at her embarrassing mistake. Even so, it was a small one, and his compliment meant that she was doing well to keep up.

    “What a poor guy, not having anyone to like you…” Melissa muttered to herself as she let out a hefty sigh. Having lived most her life in an orphanage, she was well aware and understood perfectly the struggles of feeling useless and unwanted. “But actually… at least there’s still someone in town that likes Mr Pilton!”

    “Now who might that be?” Detective Rowry enquired bemused, not knowing if she was serious or joking. 

    “Mrs Plywood of course!” Melissa exclaimed grinning from ear to ear as she recollected her recent encounter with Mrs Plywood; Mrs Plywood always had a good heart, having her unique way to love and care for even the most unlovable.

    “Mrs Plywood??? You mean, Ms Abby Plywood?”

    “Spot on Mr Detective sir!”

    However, an awkward silence ensued. Detective Rowry stared down onto the floorboard, with a detached look of discontentment all over his face. His friendly demeanour was gone, as cold despair seemed to have consumed his bright, handsome face. 

    “Detective are you…” Melissa whimpered apprehensively.


    “I think it’s time for you leave.” Single-handedly, Detective Rowry grabbed her and tugged her out of the office chair. Dumbfounded, Melissa’s lifeless body could only comply with the incessant pulling as he dragged her through the station’s hallway. He effortlessly kicked open the heavy oaken doors of the patrol station and lazily tossed Melissa out onto the quiet dead streets, slamming the door behind her without even batting an eye.

  5. Melissa fought back the tears she knew was coming. The reality of her situation was finally hitting her – she was stranded in some other timeline where she didn’t know anyone and the only person she was getting along with has now abandoned her on the once familiar streets that now seemed so foreign to her. And she had no idea how to get out.


    No, Melissa Portwood, you are not going to cry now. You are going to be fine, you –


    Just then the slip of paper she previously tucked into her pocket fell out. Dear me, she almost forgotten about that piece of paper! Melissa felt excitement again as she picked the paper up, there was a detective mission for her to continue.


    She clutched tight to that piece of paper, and walked until she found a hidden spot near an alleyway. She scanned her surroundings to make sure there was no one around, before unrolling the piece of paper. Messy handwriting filled the piece of parchment and Melissa had to squint her eyes to make out some of the words.

    Melissa was shocked. Ms Plywood had an affair with Frankie Pilton? The guy no one liked in the elections?


    And who was James?


    “Detective Melissa Portwood is on the case!” She whispered to herself and kept the paper back in her pocket. Well, clearly the first place to start was the tree where she found the letter at, and back there she went.


    As she approached the tree, she noticed a woman, worriedly digging through the grass surrounding it, as if looking for something.

    Melissa approached the woman and took the paper out from her pocket. “Is this yours, Ms Plywood?”

  6. Startled, Mrs Plywood stops in her tracks and looks up. Her hair was dishevelled, her clothes were in a mess, and her hands were filled with grime and dirt.

    “It’s you… the girl from earlier! Wait… how did you get that?!?”

    “Please give it back to me! It’s really important!” She begged frantically.

    Noticing the desperation and fear in her voice, Melissa complied immediately, feeling a tinge of remorse for having taken the bottle without permission.

    “I’m really sorry Mrs Plywood, I was just roleplaying around this tree when I stumbled across the bottle,” Melissa whispered guiltily. As much as she cherished her little detective adventure, she could sense the seriousness of the situation and importance of the note to Mrs Plywood.

    “Oh, it’s all right. You’re just a child, my dear.” Mrs Plywood reassured with a gentle smile as she reached out to retrieve the bottle.

    “Your name is Melissa, right? My dear?” She asked.

    “Yes, Mrs Plywood,” Melissa replied.

    “My dear Melissa, when you found this bottle, was there anyone else around the area? Perhaps a young man, in his late twenties, with almond brown hair?”

    “Oh! You mean Detective Rowry?” Melissa chirped excitedly, realizing she could answer Mrs Plywood’s question.

    “Oh God. James was here.”

    “Melissa, did he manage to see the contents of the paper inside?” Mrs Plywood asked, a sense of dread apparent in her voice.

    “No Mrs Plywood, I hid the bottle from him as I didn’t want anyone to find out about my discovery…” Melissa blurted.

    “Thank God. James must never find out about the contents of this paper. Melissa, you’ve read what was written in the paper right? I know it sounds like I’m a bad person, but I can explain.”

    “James and I met when he was still a juvenile detective and I finished school. At first, it seemed like a fairytale. He was charming, smart, handsome… but after a few years in the force, maybe it was the things he’d seen, or had to do… James changed.”

    “He started becoming abusive. He would flare up at the slightest of things, find fault in everything I said… He started becoming violent. It was around that period that I came to meet Frankie. He was a quiet guy, mostly kept to himself, but such a kind soul. He grew up on the less fortunate side of town, and he was an avid believer in improving the rights of the less fortunate.”

    “Gradually we got closer and closer, and I found comfort in him where James could no longer provide. A few weeks ago, I found out I was pregnant. I knew it couldn’t be James’s child as I had never allowed him to touch me after our relationship took a turn for the worst which angered him tremendously.”

    “I know James is becoming increasingly suspicious and hostile towards me, and I have a hunch that he knows I’ve been talking to someone else. I noticed he began being obsessively controlling me, and even tried to follow me around.”

    “It’s very important that no one else finds out about this Melissa. Frankie is currently running for election and it’s a very critical period for him. He is already struggling to gain the villager’s votes as most of the middle-class men don’t want to change their lifestyle for the sake of helping the poor, and he cannot afford to tarnish his image. More so, I can’t imagine what James would do to Frankie if he found out.”


    Melissa could only obediently nod her head.

  7. A loud siren can be heard from a distant. 


    A white van decorated with flags and stickers of Frankie Pilton drove past us. 

    “Oh, we must hurry now, the curfew is going to commence,” Mrs Plywood tucked the piece of paper into her pockets and pushed Melissa along.

    “Riots?” Melissa muttered under her breath.

    In moments, the crowd that once filled the street dissipated. The cheering for a vote stood silent, bereft as it disappeared into the distant. Flashes of anger, jeers and shouting came from all around. As Mrs Plywood and Melissa rushed through the crowd, they witnessed a window being smashed. 

    “Oh god, it has begun.” Mrs Plywood whimpered.

    Civilians can be seen panicking and disappearing from sight as quick as they could, fleeing to buses, or hiding along the alleyways. A few blocks down, cars were burnt, looted, smashed and properties were destroyed without a care to whom it belonged to. The white van from earlier halted in the middle of the crowd, and smashed to pieces. The once, silent and peaceful street instantly transformed into an angry and mindless mob in an instant.

    Anyone who tried to stop the jeers or protested the majority were beaten down profusely. Police sirens can be heard and men clad in uniforms holding transparent shields and a full face visor can be seen marching in teams to constrain the mass. 

    Melissa and Mrs Plywood rushed ahead to find an alleyway to avoid the insanity. Instructions came from all directions through the loudspeakers in hopes to ceasefire. Infuriated oppositions can be heard chanting and shouting in unison. And at that moment, a gas was unleashed. The street was engulfed in massive smoke and people begun coughing from all sides. 

    Mrs Plywood dragged Melissa further down into the alley way, backing away from the smoke. Melissa coughed vigorously. The gradual absence of light, heightened the stench of the alley, which reeked of a hundred rotten take-away meals. Lamp posts cast their shadows around the narrow lane. The gas slowly diminished from sight as the sound of the riot began to die down. 

    “Sit here,” Mrs Plywood demanded.

    Melissa eyes started to tear as a result of the smoke. Shutting her eyes tight to allow Mrs Plywood to wipe off her tears with a handkerchief, Melissa’s eyes were finally able to adjust themselves to her surroundings. Albeit the soreness that burned her eyes, she noticed an “F. P.” initials sewn onto the handkerchief.

    “Abby,” A voice appeared from behind them.

    The lamp posts cast a long striking shadow like black over deepest charcoal over the both of them. With steady footsteps, it drew closer and without a warning noise, Mrs Plywood jumped up and embraced him. 

    “Frankie!” Mrs Plywood exclaimed. 

    Frankie Pilton stood before them, looking disheveled unlike the well-groomed portraits of him on the poster. His face that was previously as fresh as any spring petal now bore the resemblance of a withered plant. His eyes appeared lifeless and wrinkles can be seen etched onto his smooth face. He must have suffered an immense amount of pain to look like that, Melissa thought. His face and white shirt were covered in dirt and his hair was extremely unkempt. 

    “They are coming for me,” Frankie coughed.

    A deafening gun shot can be heard from behind. Instantaneously, everything fell silent around us. The sound of chaos from afar – from the piercing cries of the crowd, to the minute rattling of the pipes – perished. 

  8. Melissa looked down, patting her body to examine for any bullet holes. “Thank you Jesus! I’m too young to die!” Melissa shrieked. The relief of being alive transported her back to reality, her detective instincts kicking in almost immediately; 

    “Where was the gunshot coming from?”

    “Was it the police trying to disperse the crowd?”

    “Was it a rioter?”

    “Did the bullet hit anyone…?”


    Frankie Pilton fell to the ground face flat, a gaping hole at the back of his neck. Smoke filtered out from the crevices of his fresh flesh wound as red hot liquid erupted out forming a pool of blood around Frankie’s lifeless body.  

    “FRANKIE… FRANKIEEEEE!” Abby fell onto her knees, immensely grief-stricken as she stared in horror. Shaking her head in denial as the love of her life dissipated from the world; surely the sight of lost love was too much for even the strongest to bear. 

    Melissa traced the bullet path to the end of the alleyway, there standing at the entrance was a lone figure; clad in a dark grey trench coat and adorned with a matching bowler hat. Seeing that Melissa had seen him, he silently slipped away out of sight.
     Melissa looked back at Abby to see if she was aware of the situation.

    “Ms Plywood!! The murder is getting away!” , but her wails of lamentations grew only louder. Frankie Pilton was dead and in Abby Plywood’s current state, she was useless. Someone had to bring the murderer to justice; Melissa knew it had to be her.

    Melissa exploded into a sprint, giving chase to the unknown assailant. As she exited the narrow path, she saw the fluttering of the assailant’s trench coat drift around the corner into the adjacent alleyway down the street. Without a moment’s hesitation, Melissa scrambled forward as quickly as her little legs could take her, but as soon as she reached the mouth of the lane, the man seemed to have disappeared. 

    An unsettling fog obscured vision as Melissa squinted hard to see the end of the alleyway. Impulsively without assessing how dangerous going in would be, she trudged apprehensively into the dingy old alley.

    “Hello, where are you? I saw you come in; you’d best come out now before I…”

    Before she could let out another word, a pair of hands from behind her clasped tightly around her waist. The assailant’s palm muffled her as she struggled desperately to fight free, but with both her hands subdued, it was impossible. Like an anaconda, the grip around her waist grew tighter and tighter with each exhale. Melissa let out a scream, a weak attempt that only resulted in the constriction intensifying. Struggling was pointless, the assailant was too strong, she was suffocating, she could feel herself dying, and there was nothing she could do.


    25 August 1982

    “Take a deep breath, calm down and tell me when you’re ready dear…” Detective Rowry said as his hands instinctively reached out to comfort Melissa. “Who are you, where are you from and why did you want to speak with me?”

    “I-I’m Melissa Portwood, I’m 12 years old, I live in the private sector of the orphanage, and I… I think I witnessed the murder of Frankie Pilton.”

    “Can someone get me this young girl’s records?” Detective Rowry signalled to his subordinates. “Okay, I’m all ears, what happened?”

    “It started with a d-dream…”

    “Not the dream my dear, the murder.”

    “Don’t call me dear!”

    “Eeeeasy, I’m only trying to help.”


    “Wait, what!? Who!?”

    “ Don’t act like you don’t know the name, MR FRANKIE PILTON!!”

    “Uhhmmmm… sure doesn’t ring a bell!”

    “For goodness sake, politics, 1976 general elections, riots, Mrs Plywood, Frankie Pilton.”

    “Sorry do I know you girl?” Detective Rowry waved a hand, dismissing his subordinates to leave them alone.


    “Now you listen to me child of Satan; you shut your gap hole this instance because you have no idea what you’re talking about.”

    “I was there. I saw it; I saw it all happen!”

    “Take this young girl back to the orphanage; she’s done nothing but wastes our time with her fancy dreams!” Detective Rowry instructed the orphanage nuns.




    But it was hopeless; there was nothing a young orphaned girl could do. As the orphanage nuns dragged her back to her room, Melissa swore to herself, that she would bring justice to Mr Frankie Pilton.

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